Sept. 20--An interest by public school officials to correct problems with security alarms at several schools led the Wilson City Council to wait three months before adopting penalty fees for repeated false alarms.
Instead of giving the school system 90 days to correct the problem, the council decided to hold off enacting the false alarm fees citywide.
The council was prepared on Thursday during its meeting to adopt a new fee structure for repetitive false security and fire alarms. A police department study revealed that 99 percent of the 5,371 security alarm calls during the past year were false.
Fike High School had the highest number of false alarms, more than 100 in one year, while several businesses had more than 50 calls and many had more than 20 calls. The fee structure includes penalty fees for three or more false alarm calls in one year. Security alarm fees would start at $50 and go as high as $250 while false fire alarm calls would start at $500 and go to $775.
The fees brought concern from Councilman Logan Liles who previously asked city staff to determine the potential cost to the school system.
"He was concerned about this ordinance having a negative impact on the schools' budget," said Grant Goings, city manager. "It certainly is not the council's goal of taking money from the school system."
Goings said that if the fees were in place a year ago, the cost to the school system would have been as high as $70,000.
Glen Davis, executive director of administrative services with Wilson County Schools, said that efforts have started to correct the problems with alarms being set off at area schools. Some of the problems at Fike have included the alarm being turned off in one area of the school but on in other areas. Staff have set off alarms by entering incorrect shut-off codes or weren't able to get to the alarm system fast enough to turn it off.
"We've changed that," Davis said. "It's either on or it's off."
The false alarms are not occurring because of faulty systems.
"This is human error most of the time," Davis said.
A report of how the problems have been corrected will be presented to the council in three months.
Councilwoman Gwen Burton said that she hopes that other alarm system owners will take the opportunity to examine their systems during the next three months.
"I really want to encourage other businesses to take these 90 days to examine their own internal methods so that we don't have them complaining after the fact," Burton said. "This is a window of opportunity for self-inquiry, self-examination to look at what practices are contributing to it. As our city manager said, our hope is to not collect a fee on anyone so this is an abundance of caution up front to try for that not to be the case."
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